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A Brief History of Maryland Newspapers

1700s

  • Annapolis’ Maryland Gazette plays a central part in Maryland’s evolution from colony to state.
  • Baltimore newspapers flourish as the city emerges as a key economic center of the state.

 

1800s

  • The first telegraph message is sent from Washington to Baltimore in 1844, allowing news to be reported the same day it unfolds.
  • Marylanders strive for a middle ground in the years leading up to the Civil War.
    • Outside of Baltimore local newspapers emerge, offering a window into Maryland life outside of the city.
    • Daily papers often report on the Maryland Colonization Society, which worked to repatriate freed slaves to Africa.
    • In contrast, papers such as the Baltimore Sun and the Planter’s Advocate of Prince George’s County represent the views of urban and rural elites.
  • Disruptions in the newspaper business caused by the outbreak of hostilities in April 1861 are particularly acute in Maryland.
    • Editors are imprisoned by federal authorities and newspapers shut down if deemed pro-Confederate.
    • Two casualties of this federal censorship are the Baltimore Daily Exchange and the South.
  • Marylanders avidly read those newspapers still operating for the latest war news written by the first cohort of war correspondents.
  • The Sun and the American survive the war and continue to dominate the news business in the Gilded Age.
  • New newspapers emerge to serve the needs of ethnic groups and different classes of society.
    • Progressive reformers assume control of the Baltimore News.
    • In 1892 John H. Murphy founds the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper to serve a community suffering under Jim Crow segregation.
  • Baltimore’s Ottmar Merganthaler revolutionizes printing with his invention of the Linotype machine around 1886. The ability to mechanize typesetting leads to a proliferation of newspapers. 

 

1900s

  • Early in the 20th century, Baltimore boasts between four and six dailies with many more specialized titles published weekly.
  • The fire of 1904 destroys most of the Baltimore business district, including the offices of many newspapers.
  • The advent of affordable photo printing technology is embraced by the afternoon Baltimore News-Post (American).
  • Outside Baltimore county and local newspapers continue to flourish, preserving important evidence of the concerns of small-town Maryland.
  • By the 1920s, newspapers in Maryland settle into a period of stability that continues until the last quarter of the 20th century.

 

This timeline is adapted from the narrative of the project's first NDNP grant application from 2012. This section was titled "Themes in Maryland History as Seen Through Its Newspapers, 1840-1920" and was written by Doug McElrath.